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Albarracín

Albarracín Pano
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Albarracin is stunning. Heaped in history that dates back further than 133BC, to the times of the Romans where they had subjugated the locals. In the first century they built an engineering marvel: an 18km aqueduct, considered one of the most complex public works in Spain, there is, unfortunately, none of if it left to be seen any more.

The Moors had overran the area by the 12th Century, where it became know as the Sinyoría d’Albarrazín. In this time, the Moors, Jews, and nominal Christians, all lived together in peace, and it was believed this was the reason it enjoyed most prosperous period. Around the 13th century it was concurred by Peter III of Aragon, deposing the ruling family, the House of Azagra. by the 14th century the lands where officially part of the Kingdom of Aragon.Closely packed town

There is fortunately much to be seen of the old town. It now shows it’s age, but with charm and full of character. Streets so tights you could pass over the balcony to your neighbour a cup of sugar and not have to stretch. Shops and houses jutting out from the the hillside: above, below, and around each other, depending on the shape of the rock and when it was built.

I would highly recommend getting up to watch the sunrise from the top of the old defensive town wall and turrets, built in the 10th century by the Arabs, the views are just outstanding.

Town and fortifications
Situated just outside of town, is a huge rustic forest with great boulders and cliffs of sandstone bulging out in all directions, you don’t have to walk far from the carparks to find the bright red boulders of sandstone waiting to be climbed, walk a little future, and you will either find caveman paintings (helpfully signposted) and some of the most breath taking views across the valley (not so signposted).
'Variate del Redil' 7AThe climbing is unique: although renowned for it’s big pocketed roofs, it is also great for slabs, traverses and bone down crimps, whatever takes your fancy. With most of the climbing a short walk from the carparks and climbing for all experiences right next door to each other. Awesome blocks, with some great lines, the grading is thought to be a little soft compared to the likes of Fontainebleau, as it’s consider less micro-technical and more gym-like (take from that what you will), but it might be your chance to bag a new personal best.

Toilet PaperHowever, this is where I unfortunately run out of positive things to say of Albarracín. It seems the climbers are living up to their dirt bag name a little too closely! On that same short walk you are welcomed by flags of toilet paper, picked up by the wind and now flapping in the bushes and trees, follow your nose a little too closely and you will pick up on their sources. Tidy little piles of poo, dotted in and around the undergrowth (if available) and round the back of the old deserted farmer’s huts. The sad truth is that climber are neglecting the beauty of the place and basic 13th century hygiene, and it seems the town is beginning notice. On my first visit three years ago, staying in the two carparks closest to the sectors was tolerated and no one seemed to mind. Those who stayed were conscious of their actions, discrete, and buried their poop. Now parking is outright banned from 10pm to 7am. Ignorant of the change on the night i arrived in the dark I parked up in the carpark. I had not noticed the new and (in hindsight) very obvious signs (in English) stating not to park there. Very shortly after arriving and a not a minute after 10pm this some official pulled up, and suggested, in no uncertain terms, I should move on.  There is now only one overnight spot for van dwellers, this is half way back to town. Too far to really want to walk into the sectors each day with boulder mat in tow, nearly 4km up the tarmac road, and just too far to want to walk into town for supplies, about 20 minutes down the tarmac road, forcing everyone to drive daily.

Parking in snowThe location is an odd choice, visible from the town, a touristic stop of choice to enjoy the views of some spectacular sandstone cliffs, and there isn’t the tiniest shrub for privacy in sight. I’m not sure quite what the aim of the game was by forcing this to be the only overnight parking spot, maybe the landlord of the other carparks just had enough, maybe a committee hoped that because there was nothing to hide behind, and the ground compacted rubble, people would not feel the urge to go, but the opposite has happened. The bold go in the full view of daylight, the lesser-so-bold wait till the shroud of nightfall, all left on the surface and in plain view. More oddly, there is not even a bin. At the sector’s parking there are plenty, but in the designated overnight spot, not one. So if one wants to be a little more conscientious with his pooping habits not want to leave a mess, one is left with a choice of either trying to dig a hole in the rubbly stony hardcore ground or bag it up and carry the smell with one’s self all the way back to town.

To finish on a high note; the shop owners and town folk are all very welcoming. The prices make staying in Albarracín very affordable, there is a LIDL 40 minutes drive away in Terual for extreme  budget prices, but I would high recommend eating out every so often, and buying local, as all the places are good value for money. As well as go and enjoy a coffee and beer or two, in some of the local establishments at again very reasonable prices.  The climbing shop just before the campsite has all your needs, and at a surprisingly good price for such a small shop, it’s is full of knowledge too, if you unsure of anything.  I would recommend the older guide book, not the newly published landscape one. As much as the new guidebook have all the new sectors and omitted the closed sectors, the pictures are terrible, and the grading (supposedly) of the routes has been changed to suite the author a mofo climber who is clearly bad at slabs. If you want the up-to-date grades check out the norop.es website. it’s all up to date on there.

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Apart from the poo pooping on my fun, the 2 weeks I spent here have gone in a flash, I felt a pang of sadness leaving such a stunning place behind, and will be back soon for another great time, with great company.

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Introducing Gertrude…

There she is. My new beauty!  I’ve forgotten the pleasure it is to own my ones own vehicle! Took her on her maiden voyage to Swanage for the Easter weekend, and my smile grew as the mile rolled on under her! Yes she’s old and yes she a little nicked and dented, but she a smooth roller and she’s mine. Bring on the summer!

She got us there – ‘us’ being myself and a concoction of randomly thrown together new and old friends at the last minute.  Now we had to make the party happen.  Always makes me nervous when I introduce friends, always stupidly worry they won’t get along.  There was most certainly no need to worry this weekend!  The jokes erupted moments after the side door slammed and we pulled out of Camden and they just did not stop.  It was hard even concentrate on the climbs at times for the banter!

Really felt like we welcomed in the start of the summer, early.  Friday started cold and wet, by Sunday the sun tried braking out but we had a ground frost Sunday night. Monday however: Suns out, Guns out! Sun tans included!

Climbing, now didn’t one learn and thing or two about one’s psyche this weekend!  Happy to cruise up grades that in my head are warm ups, but the closer I get to my on-sight grade the harder it was for me to believe I was capable of doing it. Moreover, if i were to watch someone else climb a hard route even if I knew to them to be stronger and better to me, I would happily go up after and pull out the bag whatever was needed to get to those chains.  If, however, I went first all my confidence; in route reading, skill, strength and technique just evaporated.

Saturday and Sunday I enjoy the company of an incredibly good climber, who was cruising all the routes.  I was very willing to try any route he did and was able to do any of the moves he did with barely a shadow of a concern for my ability. Come Monday, I’m picking out my own routes, at the first hint of a complexity or power doubt came knocking.  I was not trusting myself or my technique, suddenly I worried about silly falls, over gripping, heavy breathing, the lot.

Don’t get it, it’s defiantly a mental thing and it’s probably a milage thing. Playing around at the 6a thru 6c range for so long, I’ve got used to what those routes expect of me. Now I’m trying to up the game, things now are feeling uneasy, unfamiliar and hard. Is milage the key now, should I just stat doing every 7a under the sun until they feel like the new 6a’s or is there a deeper thing to address!